The motivation for this website

This website seeks to provide a resource for community environmental advocates at a time when there is increasing community concern about the health impacts of current and future industrial development in our Valley. There are significant challenges to community participation in these issues. Information on air pollution and health impact in the Hunter Valley is scattered across multiple organisational and agency sites making it difficult to find and navigate. This is wasteful of community advocates limited time and leads to imbalances in information - which undermines participatory governance. Community environmental advocates do not have research assistants or unlimited time and resources so this site attempts to provide a one stop shop for finding relevant and reliable information.

A Demonstration Project

This site is a demonstration project providing an example of a potential collaborative solution to meeting the information needs of the community concerned about development and health issues. It is designed to support "data mediation" - assisting with access, curation, and interpretation of data for interested stakeholders and to collaborative fact finding - scientists collaborating with the community to answer questions of relevance to the community.

Collaboration

The project is collaborative and will evolve with feedback from the users of the website. The website has been developed initially to support the one day workshop - Environmental Health for Environmental Advocates on May 29th at the University of Newcastle. To suggest questions or vote on questions to be covered at the workshop and suggest changes to the website please go to this page

Dr Craig Dalton - website curator

Dr Craig Dalton has had a long history of responding to community environmental health events. He is a conjoint senior lecturer with the School of Medicine and Public Health and a public health physician. As the former director of the Hunter Public Health Unit he led the assessment of the health effects of lead, arsenic, cadmium and sulphur dioxide from the former smelter at Boolaroo, heavy metals in fish in Lake Macquarie and the cancer risk associated with coke ovens at the former BHP steel works. More recently he has been involved in responding to the chromium VI release from the Orica plant and coal dust from open cut coal mines. He is currently a member of the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network Committee. He has investigated cancer clusters in the USA and Australia and has undergone training in environmental health risk assessment and risk communication at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA and the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.

The inspiration for this course was the observation, over many years and multiple environmental incidents that community representatives were often subject to conflicting and confusing information in the heat of environmental events. With the growth of environmental health resources on the internet an environmental health advocate is faced with an almost infinite array of information sources with varying degrees of reliability. This is further complicated by the diverse range of stakeholders involved in environmental issues with different agendas and world views who interpret information through different lenses. It is often difficult for environmental advocates to know who or what to trust. It is hoped that this website and the associated workshops will provide a supportive environment for community participation in the future of the Hunter Valley.

This website has been idependently curated and has not been endorsed by, and does not seek to promote the position or views of, any agencies or organisations. Much apprectiation to the Hunter Environment Institute for partnering on an application to the NSW Department of Trade and Investment's Mine Safety Advisory Council for a grant to develop enhance the website and extend educational outreach. Further biographical information can be found here